|Crossing Boundaries, Creating Images: In Search of the Prophet Muhammad in Literary and Visual Traditions
Max Planck Fellow Fellows: Avinoam Shalem
(Munich University and Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut)
Project Managing Director: Christiane Gruber
(University of Michigan)
The interdisciplinary research project seeks to explore the multiple ways in which the Prophet Muhammad has been described and depicted in European traditions from the medieval era until the early modern period. European materials that are examined include Latin translations of the Qur'an and vitas of the Prophet in Latin and vernacular European languages, pre-modern Jewish literature, illustrated medieval French and Italian manuscripts containing historical and belletristic texts, European printed books, sculptures, frescoes, and stained glass windows, as well as Euro-American Orientalist and Romantic paintings. The results of this research project will be published as a corpus, in which the visual materials as well as the literary sources are compiled, translated into English, and discussed.
This project brought together, in a conference held from 16 to 18 July 2009 at the KHI in Florence, approximately thirty distinguished international scholars whose work explores the varied ways in which the Prophet Muhammad has been constructed and imagined, both through Euro-American eyes and within Islamic traditions, from the beginnings of Islam until the modern period. European and American textual and visual sources were explored in relationship to internal debates over the construction and course of the Christian faith, as well as attempts to delineate its contrastive position vis-à-vis Islam at particularly critical junctures in time. Islamic materials to be studied include descriptive, biographical, and historical texts, illustrated manuscripts from the 13th to the 19th century, Ottoman verbal descriptions (hilyas), Persian poetry, the Prophet's relics, and modern representations of the Prophet in lithographic works, posters, and other popular materials. Islamic materials are investigated in an effort to determine how writers and artists working primarily from within Arabic, Persian, and Turkish cultural spheres came together with the largely devotional aim to praise Muhammad through text-and-image production. The proceedings of this interdisciplinary conference on European and Islamic texts and images will be published by the KHI.
The members of the research group have also prepared a volume, entitled 'The Subjective Eye: Constructing the Image of Muhammad in Europe', which will be published by De Gruyter in 2013. The book provides a comprehensive overview and analysis of the most pertinent examples of the depictions of the Prophet Muhammad produced in the Latin West from the 12th to the 19th century.
By crossing disciplinary boundaries in the field of the humanities, this project's principal goal consists in exploring how literary and visual descriptions of the Prophet Muhammad served multiple cultural, political, and religious purposes from the medieval period until today. These materials did not only emerge from the pietistic impulse to describe and imagine the prophetic persona within Islamic cultural practices but also from internal debates over the construction and future course of the Christian faith.
Michelina Di Cesare: The Pseudo-historical Image of the Prophet Muhammad in Medieval Latin Literature: A Repertory, New York / Berlin 2011
Conference "Crossing Boundaries, Creating Images: In Search of the Prophet Muhammad in Literary and Visual Traditions" (Firenze, 16 - 18 July 2009)
Conference "Gazing Otherwise: Modalities of Seeing" (Firenze, 11 - 12 October 2012)